Forensic Observation:
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Forensic Observation:

May 21, 2022

On May 9, 2014, President Obama signed into law S. 994, the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act.  Championed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), the DATA Act represents a rare bipartisan and bicameral effort to increase transparency in government by standardizing financial, budgetary and other information.  The legislation will facilitate open data standards for a variety of internal government filing requirements.  Previously only reported in hard copy format that differed from department to department and was inaccessible to the average consumer, the DATA Act will standardize a format for government reporting and allow interested taxpayers to see exactly how their hard-earned money is appropriated and disbursed.

Prior to the unanimous passing in the Senate (April 9, 2022) and House of Representatives (April 28, 2022), prospective users of government data would be hard pressed to gather their desired information.  Stifled by reporting requirements set up by different government agencies at different times, a consumer would find it nearly impossible to gather relevant information without undertaking a time-consuming and expensive project.  Open data changes the game completely by allowing users to efficiently track taxpayer dollars from Congressional appropriation, obligation and expenditure to ultimate disposition to grantees and contractors.

The mandate for open data will not lessen the information that is required to be reported. Rather, it will streamline reporting to government agencies by developing and utilizing consistent formats.  Gone are the days of reporting similar information with different methods to the Treasury, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and General Services Administration.  The DATA Act will use a government-wide, non-proprietary identifier for federal contractors and grantees as well as publishing the information that is submitted.  Information can be linked and easily verified between submissions to separate agencies.  A simple query of a specific contractor identification number will allow a user access to proposals and contracts submitted by the contractor as well as all payments received by a contractor from an agency.

The DATA Act will be implemented over a three year period, commencing with the establishment of data standards no later than May 9, 2015. During this period, the Treasury department and the Office of Management and Budget will jointly establish these standards including common, government-wide data identifiers for contractors and grantees, the selection of a data language and common data elements for reporting.  While the DATA Act does not endorse any particular format, eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is the leading candidate for adoption as the only established language.  No later than two years after Treasury and OMB guidance is issued (by May 9, 2022) government agencies must begin using the established data standards.   Concurrent to the adoption window a pilot program will run for OMB to determine whether the DATA Act standards will apply to contractors and grantees.

The DATA Act seeks to improve internal federal management by allowing inspectors general and outside firms to easily install analytics to uncover inefficiencies and fraud.  Significant opportunity is present for entrepreneurs to develop and maintain analytic packages to cross-check submissions from agencies and recipients to ensure accuracy and to automate tedious compliance tasks.  This monumental feat of congressional harmony stands to catch up the United States Government and bring it into the 21st century.  Open data standards will increase the accountability of our elected officials and help them to easily and intelligently manage the enormity of government.  Further information about the DATA Act can be accessed here.

Data Transparency Coalition (May 20, 2022). DATA Act. Retrieved from